Shot using a 1970s wind-up Bolex camera and on 16mm film, Mark Jenkin’s Bait is somewhat of a glorious visual anomaly in a world dominated by big budget blockbuster action thrillers and endless superhero franchises.
Set within a small community of an undisclosed Cornish fishing village (the shoot itself took place in Charlestown and Penzance), Bait presents an eerily enchanting expressionist aesthetic which owes a lot to the early films of French cinema pioneer Jean Epstein (The Fall of The House of Usher) or even Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc).
Bait tells the story of Martin Ward (played brilliantly by comedian Edward Rowe aka Kernow King), a gruff and taciturn cove fisherman who no longer has a boat at his disposition to fulfil a job he loves. His brother Steven (Giles King) has turned their father’s vessel into a pleasure boat for tourists, and the two have since been at loggerheads.
As he struggles to make ends meet, Martin becomes locked into an increasingly volatile war of words with “down from London” couple Sandra and Tim (Mary Woodvine and Simon Shepherd) whose cottage once belonged to Martin’s family and which has since been renovated to within an inch of its life. When a dispute over a parking space turns violent, both sides must find a common ground, but things slowly start to deteriorate when a tragedy involving the younger members of the community strikes
With extreme close-ups and a haunting melodramatic tone, Jenkin has managed to create a world that is as mesmerising as it is unsettling. Using non-diagetic sound and a dialogued that has been painstakingly overdubbed in post-production, Jenkins has done a great job in adding more eeriness and mystery to an otherwise ordinary narrative.
Bait is a cris de coeur from someone who is clearly deeply concerned by what is happening to the small communities being stifled by poverty in favour of accommodating mindless tourism and excessive gentrification.
Mark Jenkin has given us a brilliantly original, intriguing and deeply engaging story which is sure to resonate with anyone who has spent any amount of time in Cornwall as a tourist or otherwise. A breathtaking and glorious endeavour.
Bait is in cinemas UK-wide including BFI Southbank from Friday 30th of August